Last Thursday I had an MRI on my neck. My neurologist thought it was time to take another look since I hadn’t had any imaging done on my pesky neck since 2011. Yesterday I got the results via their ultra-efficient online patient portal. Are you ready for this? Drum roll, please. The results of my MRI are…normal. My darn neck is completely normal. How is this possible? I know this should be good news. I know I should be happy. Don’t we all want medical test results to come back as normal? Isn’t normal good?
But this word, staring back at me from my screen, seemed surreal. My test result shows I’m normal. My neck is normal. That means that this—a life of daily pain—is normal. I begin to believe this stupid word is mocking me. It comes up from my screen like dark smoke, surrounds my neck and head and squeezes harder, reminding me what normal feels like. It is a vice that is never released. That “normal” taunts me from my iPhone and the nice is twisted even tighter. Yup, you’re normal. Always feeling pain? Normal. Constantly checking the clock to see when it’s time to take the pain meds that don’t work anyway? Normal. Having to psych myself up for any encounter with another human being? Normal.
I’m not looking for physical problems here. I’m not looking for trouble, as it seems trouble, especially coming in the form of physical malady, can find its way to me just fine. What I’m looking for is something easy breezy, a nice gentle diagnosis that can be cured by a pretty pill. Bill says I’m always “looking for a magic pill” and in some senses he’s right. But if he or anyone else lived in my body they would get it: I just want relief.
I’ve done all the stuff: four rounds of useless physical therapy, allowing myself to be placed in a weird neck traction machine three times a week, a needling experience with acupuncture, pain specialists, neurologists, rheumatologists. Yet my “normal” neck and I are still here, more than ten years later, still annoyed and ticked off at being normal.
I guess I have to begin to accept normal as good. As a positive word that says there is nothing horribly wrong with me. And I know that is good. So I guess normal it is. I will embrace this word and make peace with it. But I can’t right now…my heating pad is beckoning me. I need a little relief from being normal.